10 Reasons to Drive to Portland, Maine

10 Reasons to Drive to Portland, Maine

Central Provisions

Perhaps the most in-demand tables in town are found at this buzzing New American wunderkind, a recent James Beard finalist for best new restaurant in the nation. The rustic-chic restaurant in the city's historic Old Port emphasizes cuisine-hopping small plates — from Mongolian braised beef to bone marrow toast with fontina and horseradish creme. There's a reason Central is entering its fourth year as the darling of Portland's dining scene, and those continued queues out the door (no reservations are accepted) are testament to unwavering popularity.

414 Fore St., Portland; 207-805-1085

 

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WHARF STREET WONDERFUL

WHARF STREET WONDERFUL

Some small plate menus can make you nostalgic for the good old days before the world got so precious. Not this one. Central Provisions jump starts the trend with excitement.

But first, the drinks. Generally, we gravitate to the wine, and the list here has diversity and strength. Our server, however, persuades us to try a libation from a cocktail menu based on pre-Prohibition recipes.

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THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA ARE...

What makes a restaurant the hottest destination in town?

Glowing Yelp reviews, Instagram-worthy presentation and high praise from critics and food bloggers go a long way. But among chefs and restaurateurs, nothing says you've made it like a James Beard Award.

Since 1990, the not-for-profit James Beard Foundation, named after "the father of American cuisine," has been honoring outstanding names in the food and beverage industry. There is no cash reward, but a win -- or even a nomination -- can substantially increase the buzz for business.

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BEST OF CONTEST DRAWS OVER 20,000 VOTES

The 2015 competition for Best of Portland was fiercely competitive. We know Portlanders are passionate about their city; 650 nominees duked it out to win their share of more than 20,000 local votes. The average number of votes was 200 to 500 per category, so we can safely say that all the nominees are local favorites with hundreds of fans and that the winners are truly loved by Portlanders. For the statistically minded, the category with the most votes topped 1,000 for each of two discount liquor stores, and in one category, two cosmetic surgeons tied at exactly 161 votes each.

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FIVE MAINE CHEFS AND RESTAURANTS CLAIM SPOTS IN JAMES BEARD AWARD FINALS

Five of Maine’s 11 James Beard Award semifinalists have moved on as nominees in the foundation’s 25th annual recognition of the nation’s best chefs and restaurants.

Finalists announced Tuesday morning at the James Beard Foundation in New York City are:
• Central Provisions, Portland: Best New Restaurant

• Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Company and Hugo’s, both in Portland: Best Chef: Northeast

• Masa Miyake, Miyake and Pai Men Miyake, both in Portland: Best Chef: Northeast

• Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick, and Bao Bao, Portland: Rising Star Chef of the Year

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CENTRAL PROVISIONS

You should also know Central Provisions doesn’t offer a conventional soup-to-nuts style of dining. Instead, it specializes in small plates — ranging from $5 to $26 and broken out into categories of raw, cold, hot, and hearty — that arrive at your table as they are prepared. You simply order menu items, a couple at a time, until you are satiated. Some diners, in fact, will insist on holding onto their menu throughout the entirety of the meal, just in case one more dish — a house-made sweet: salted caramel mousse with cocoa and coffee, local strawberry shortcake — can be squeezed in.

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THE HOT 10 2014: CENTRAL PROVISIONS, PORTLAND, ME (NO. 6)

What is it about raw?

Two years ago, the now-ubiquitous kale salad beat the underdog-vegetable odds to earn BA’s Dish of the Year title. Then in 2013, it was steak tartare, which continues to inspire chefs (you should taste what this year’s No. 3 pick does with it). In 2014, another uncooked dish has appeared on menus across the country: crudo, a.k.a. carpaccio, a.k.a. ceviche, a.k.a. sashimi, or whatever chefs call it when they top exquisitely sliced raw fish with sweet, piquant, and acidic components. Nowhere did I see a more inspired embodiment of this trend than at Central Provisions.

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